Physiology of behavior, Biology tutorial


Behavior is the diverse actions which an animal perform throughout its lifetime. Internal physiological conditions, environmental stimuli and social conditions affect specific behavioral responses. Animals are faced by two key problems finding food and a place to live. The evolution of different social systems, in which animals live in groups, influences numerous features of their behavior.

DEFINITION: Animal behavior signifies to the activities animals perform throughout their lifetime, comprising feeding, locomotion, breeding, capture of prey, avoidance of predators and social behavior. Animals send signals, respond to the signals or stimuli, carry out maintenance behavior, make choices and interact by one other.

Four Approaches to Animal Behavior:

Philosophers and naturalists have noticed animal behavior for centuries. Only in the last century, though has there been noteworthy progress in understanding this behavior.

One of the approaches to the study of animal behavior is comparative psychology. Comparative psychologists highlight studies of the neural, genetic and hormonal bases of animal behavior. Psychologists carry out experimental studies in both the laboratory and field settings which relate to animal learning and to the development behavior. They explore how animals get information and the processes and nature of the behavior patterns comprising the animal's responses to the surroundings.

Ethology is the study of animal behavior which concentrates on evolution and natural environment. The leaders of this approach have been Konrad Lorenz, Niko Tinbergen and Karl von Frisch, who were awarded the Noble price in physiology or Medicine in the year 1973. Ethologists notice the behavior of a variety of animals in their natural environment and study the behavior of closely associated species to consider the evolution and basis of certain behavior patterns. Ethologists hardly ever deal with learning and are interested rather in animal communication, mating behavior and social behavior. 

Behavioral ecology highlights the ecological features of animal behavior. Predator-prey interaction, reproductive strategies, foraging strategies, habitat selection, Intraspecific and Interspecific competition and social behavior are topics of interest to the behavioral ecologists.

Sociobiology is the study of the evolution of social behavior. It joins numerous features of ethology and behavioral ecology. Sociobiologists highlight the significance of natural selection on individuals living in the group.

Causes of behavior:

There are two main causes of behavior namely Proximate and ultimate causes.

a) Proximate causation-immediate causes. This describes how behavior works - what stimulates behavior to take place. It could be studied by measuring or explaining the stimuli which elicit behavior. It comprises Internal - physiological events (that is, hormones, nervous system) and External - environmental stimuli like modifications in day length.

b) Ultimate causation-historical explanations: This describes why a behavior evolved. It is studied through measuring influence on survival or reproduction. Illustration: bird migration - birds which migrate encompass a selective benefit over birds which don't/didn't, chosen for over time, could be due to long term climate changes, glaciations, disease, taking benefit of food sources and so on.

Timing of behavior:

Circaannual: behavior takes place on a seasonal/annual basis. Illustrations: hibernation in frogs, bears, toads, salamanders bury themselves in mud throughout the winter.

Circadian: behavior takes place on a daily basis.

Components of Behavior:

There are mainly two Components of behavior:

a) Nature/innate: instinct and genes find out behavior.

b) Nurture/learned: experience and learning affect behavior.

The two extremes are not mutually exclusive; however work altogether to affect behavior.

Examples of Innate behavior:

A) Nest building in Lovebirds by Dilger:

Fischer's Lovebird: employs long strips of nest materials, carries in beak, one at a time.

Peach-faced Lovebird: tucks some short strips in feathers.

Hybrids: intermediary lengths of nest materials, inept behavior trying to tuck strips into feathers, later will carry strips in bill however will still try and tuck into feathers

B) Egg ejection by cuckoos (that is, brood parasites)

C) Freezing behavior of the nesting birds if exposed to silhouettes (that is, raptors versus waterfowl)

D) Parental feeding - brood parasites take benefit of parents.

Learned Behavior:

Simple learning - habituation, species of prey and the presence of predators. Lehman's study of gull chick feeding behavior - how an instinct is learned

Learning and development - imprinting and Lorenz's classic experiments by Greylag Goose (vital period for learning) - geese forms social attachments shortly after birth, salmon and home stream, birds and breeding range, nesting materials and so on.

Sexual imprinting - Direct sexual behavior at member of one's own species - cross-fostering studies, individuals increased by the other species, identifies foster species as its own when sexually mature, will try to mate by the foster species.


Anthropomorphism is the application of human features to anything not human. In observations animals, assigning human feelings to animal behavior are not probable to be accurate, particularly by invertebrate animals. Consider the illustration of placing an earthworm, on a fish-hook. Does the fish-hook hurt the earthworm, causing it to squirm in pain? Both of the eloquent words hurt and pain, are based on the human experience and aware awareness. A better description which increases the anthropomorphic interpretation is that placing the earthworm on the hook stimulates some receptors that produce nerve impulses which travel all along reflex neural circuits. The impulses stimulate muscles which let the worm to wriggle in an attempt to escape from the hook. This description more closely explains what has been noticed and doesn't try to propose what earthworm 'feels'.

Development of a normal behavior pattern:

Development of a normal behavior pattern needs the genes which code for the formation of the structure and organs comprised in the behavior. For illustration, in certain higher animals, normal locomotion movements will not take place devoid of proper development and growth of the limbs. This procedure needs some interaction with the animal's environment as proper nourishment, water balance and other factors should be maintained at some phases for normal growth to take place properly.


A few behavior patterns appear just after a particular developmental phase or time. Throughout maturation, performance of the behavior pattern enhances as parts of the nervous system and other structures complete development. A standard illustration is tail movement in frog embryos which are near hatching. Whereas still in the egg membranes, they begin moving their tail as they would when they were swimming and movement coordination enhances with time. Such enhanced movements are due to maturation, not practice or experience.

Instinct Learning Interactions:

In present years, most of the behavioral scientists have concluded that both instinct and learning are significant in animal behavior. Interaction of inherited (that is, instinctive) and learned components shapes a number of behavior patterns. For illustration, young bobcats increased in isolation devoid of the chance to catch live prey didn't attack a white rat positioned with them, unless the rat tried to escape. At first, their attacks were not proficient, however after some experience; they were seizing prey by the neck and quickly killing them. In fact, learning refines inherited components of this behavior. Beneath the normal situations, the learning or experiences take place during play by littermates.


Throughout imprinting, a young animal builds up an attachment toward the other animal or object. The attachment generally forms only throughout a specific critical period soon after hatching or birth and is not reversible. Imprinting is a fast learning procedure which apparently takes place devoid of reinforcement.  

Konrad Lorenz (1903-1989) performed experiments by means of geese in which he allowed the geese to imprint on him. The goslings followed him as although he was their mother. In nature, most of the species of birds in which the young can recognize by or recognize their parents. They can then be led effectively to the nest or to water. Both visual and auditory cues are significant in the imprinting systems.

Examples of various documented behaviors in animals:

1) Play Behavior:

Young animals engage in play, antecedent for adult behavior (example: predation-cats, fighting, sexual behavior, birds, Killer Whales), as well stay in good physical condition.

2) Migration:

Migration generally stated as regular, seasonal movements from one region to the other (wintering region to a breeding region), seasons can be fall/spring in temperate regions and rainy versus dry in tropical regions.

3) Navigation and Orientation:

Animals employ cues in the environment to guide them throughout migration, should orient and navigate.

Orientation: organism is able of identifying compass direction (N, S, E, W) by employing cues from the environment.

Navigation: organism is able of finding its position and also orientation, (N, S, E, W of something - river, ocean and mountain range).

4) Timing of behavior:

Circaannual: behavior takes place on a seasonal or annual basis. Illustrations: hibernation in frogs, bears, toads, salamanders bury themselves in mud all through the winter.

Circadian: behavior takes place on a daily basis cues.

5) Predatory Behavior:

Dissimilar to other manifestations of aggressive kind behavior, predatory behavior is not emotionally driven and is mainly affected by genetics. As aggression serves to raise distance, predatory behavior serves up to reduce distance as fast as possible.

Most of the domestic dogs are skilled hunters and have been bred to show certain portions of the predatory sequence.  Sight hounds like the Greyhound and Saluki are skilled chasers, whereas Labradors and Weimeraners are adept at flushing and retrieving birds and other small prey animals. Terriers were initially bred to find, run after and kill vermin, like rats and mice.

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